Hakam Bhaloo

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Hakam describes coming to Canada, and how he focused on trying to find a job when he first arrived. He remembers the advice given on his job search, and what Canada means to him.


Hakam Bhaloo is originally from Tanzania and came to Canada in 1974. He is very active in his community and is involved in many organizations including the Burnaby Multicultural Society (where he was Director for 6 years), AMSSA (Affiliation of Multlicultural Societies and Service Agencies), Ethno-cultural Advisory Association, Burnaby Arts Council (current Board Member), and Burnaby Interfaith Society, among others. Hakam is the recipient of the Burnaby Centennial Award, the Canada 125 Award, Long Service Award and Outstanding Achievement Certificate (Provincial Scout House), His Highness The Aga Khan Silver Jubilee Medal (1992), Government of Canada International Year of the Volunteers Award (2001) and the Burnaby Local Hero Award (2004).


My name is Hakam Bhaloo. I was born on the island of Zanzibar, which is now part of Tanzania.

I came here in 1974 after finishing my university studies, and I started looking for a job. As is normal with anybody, I guess, is to take their educational credentials - and in my case a Bachelor of Commerce degree and post-graduate in Business Administration - I was very proud to take my degrees when I was looking for a job. Everywhere I went, one thing they said was, "You need Canadian experience." Some others said, "You need BC experience." And with my degrees, I was overqualified for almost any job here, and because of lack of local experience that they were looking for.

One fine morning I went to Canada Manpower, which is now HRDC -I t used to be called Manpower in1974 - and I talked to a consultant there. Surprisingly, she asked me to lie about my education. But that my lying was in the reverse in that rather than saying I had this and that, I was asked to say that I don't have what I actually have. I had degrees, but I was told to hide my degrees and to say that I was just a grade 12 graduate. As soon as I came out of the office I went, again, looking for a job, and I told them, "Grade 12," and hey, presto, I got a job starting at $2.75 an hour.

What Canada means to me is a land of opportunity where one can come into the country, and if you're hard working and qualified - you can go a long way.